Tories defend Boris Johnson’s ludicrous claim that Ukraine’s fight against Russia is like Brexit vote

'The remarks led to an immediate backlash, with the comments branded hurtful and ludicrous'.

Boris Johnson

Senior Conservatives have defended the prime minister’s ludicrous claim that Ukraine’s fights against Russia is like the Brexit vote, as Boris Johnson doubled down and refused to withdraw his claim.

Johnson made the comparison during a speech at the Tory spring conference on the weekend, where he focused on Brexit.

He said: “And I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples. When the British people voted for Brexit, in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

The remarks led to an immediate backlash, with the comments branded hurtful and ludicrous. It is also worth pointing out that Ukraine had applied to join the EU.

Donald Tusk, the former president of the European Council, said that the comments offensive while Conservative peer Lord Barwell said voting in a referendum was not “in any way comparable with risking your life” in a war.

Tusk tweeted: “Boris, your words offend Ukrainians, the British and common sense”, while Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister and the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the comparison was “insane”.

There had been some speculation that Johnson was regretting his remarks, however his spokesperson has insisted that the prime minister was not having second thoughts.

it comes as senior Tories also sought to defend the prime minister’s absurd comparison. Tory chair Oliver Dowden told Andrew Marr on LBC that the ‘they are exercising a freedom and the British people were able to exercise a freedom.’

Marr had branded Johnson’s comments as ‘ludicrous and offensive’.

On the weekend Chancellor Rishi Sunak was asked by Sky’s Sophie Ridge if Johnson was right to make the comparison, to which he replied: “I don’t think those two situations are directly analogous, clearly they are not directly analogous and I don’t think the prime minister was saying that they were directly analogous.”

Asked if he would have used the words used by the prime minister, Sunak replied: “I don’t think the prime minister did either.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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